How to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden 

No matter where you look for gardening help or information, you’ll most likely come across tips and tricks to attract pollinators to your vegetable garden. You may wonder if this is actually important and whether you really need to worry about this aspect of your garden at all, but we can assure you it is! You may also simply want to create a pollinator friendly flower garden because it is beautiful. Either way, we have some tips that will make it easy to get started with attracting beneficial pollinators to your garden!

Why are Pollinators Beneficial?

So you may be wondering, why are pollinators actually beneficial for your garden? There are many reasons, but the first is that many flowers and vegetables that you may be interested in growing will need to be pollinated to produce fruit and seed. Even some plants that are self pollinating, like tomatoes, still benefit from visiting bees, as they self pollinate even better when pollinators land on them and shake their stems and flowers. 

The second reason they are incredibly important, is because they help control pests in your garden. For example, ladybugs are a wonderful pollinator that love to feed on Aphids. Aphids are a harmful insect that can damage what you’re growing by sucking out the juices of leaves, leaving them curled and yellowed. Lady bugs and their late stage larvae love to feed on aphids and can be super helpful for controlling their populations in your garden. By planting flowers like Yarrow in your garden, you can ensure that you’ll have some ladybugs around. 

wildflower with ladybug on it

How To Make Your Garden More Pollinator Friendly

  • Avoid using pesticides 

While pesticides will help kill off harmful insects in your garden, they will also negatively impact beneficial insects as well. Pesticides can kill both beneficial plants for pollinators and the pollinators themselves.

  • Provide water

Pollinators need water, so providing a pollinator watering hole of sorts can bring many to your garden. A honey bee can travel up to two miles for water, but will only go as far as they need to. Some fun ways you can provide water for your pollinators like bees, is by adding bee cups to your garden, or by filling a bird bath with water and stones. It’s important to have stones or a place where pollinators can rest and drink, so that they don’t drown. 

  • Plant native and pollinator friendly flowers 

One of the best things you can do for your local pollinators is plant local flowers. Here in the Midwest there are a whole bunch of flowers that are native to this range including Wild Geraniums, Echinacea, and Wild Bergamot (beebalm). All of these flowers are super great for attracting pollinators. While these plants may not be native to you, there are so many resources online, like this Native Plant Finder from the National Wildlife Federation that can help you find which flowers and plants are native to your specific area. All you have to do is enter your zip code! If you don’t want to only plant natives, make sure that whatever you’re planting is not invasive, as these plants will quickly take over beneficial natives. 

  • Bee hotel

By creating and putting a bee hotel in your garden, you’re creating a space where bees can nest, therefore attracting more beneficial bees to your garden! They are super easy to create and can add a cute addition to any garden. We love the look of this one and that it uses materials you can find anywhere!

  • Plant in large patches 

While planting a solitary Bee Balm plant can absolutely help bring some pollinators to your garden, it will be far more effective to plant a wide variety of flowers, as well as large amounts of them. By planting large amounts of flowers, you can support a greater number of pollinators, which in turn will benefit the general ecosystem around you, plus your veggie garden if you have one!

coreopsis flowers

Pollinator Friendly Flowers 

This is a list of flowers that are favorites to many pollinators. As we said above, it is best to plant flowers that are native to your area. Just double check to make sure that these are either native to your area, or non invasive before planting. 

Something to keep in mind when picking out your seeds for the season, is that bees prefer purple, yellow, and blue flowers as they are easier for bees to perceive. Red shows up as black to bees, so they are less likely to be attracted to flowers that are red.

List of Beneficial Flowers

  • Bee Balm
  • Milkweed
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Sweet Alyssum 
  • Yarrow
  • Borage
  • Echinacea
  • Chamomile
  • Calendula
  • Dill
  • Lavender
  • Marigold
  • Joe-Pye-Weed
  • Aster
  • Black Eyed Susan
  • Goldenrod
  • Salvia 
pink poppies

What’s a Trap Crop?

​​You may have heard the term trap crop before and wondered what it meant. Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A trap crop is a sacrificial plant that you put around your garden to attract unwanted insects away from the other crops you want to stay healthy. For example, you may love growing beans every year, but the Japanese beetles decimate them. By planting a raspberry bush nearby, you can attract the Japanese beetles away from your other crops, because they are more attracted to the raspberries. Many flowers you plant in your garden will also act as trap crops, like sweet alyssum!

a bee on a marigold

What Attracts Pollinators to Flowers 

The simple answer is that flowers are food to pollinators. The nectar is what they come for, but as a pollinator collects the nectar, they transfer pollen from plant to plant as they feed. The flower’s color, size of petal, and smell etc. also play a role in attracting pollinators. Many flowers have nectar guides which make it very easy for bees and other insects to easily get to their goal, so choosing flowers that have these certain features can be very helpful in your garden!

A List of Beneficial Pollinators

  • Honey bees
  • Native bees
  • Ladybugs 
  • Beetles
  • Birds
  • Wasps
  • Moths
  • Flies

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